The Ground Zero Mosque: Are We a Judeo-Christian Country or a Jeffersonian Country?

Muhammad Al-Zekri, a Muslim who is also a Bahraini anthropologist, gets it. He thinks that the ground zero mosque debate is good for America. This today in the New York Times:

‘What’s happening in America is very healthy,’ said Muhammad Al-Zekri, a Bahraini anthropologist. . .

The United States, he said, was still assimilating historical influences, including Islam, into its inaccurate self-image as a solely Judeo-Christian nation. The construction of Park51, Mr. Zekri believes, will help shape that.

‘We pray for the people of New York, for peace,’ Mr. Zekri said solemnly. ‘And if it matters, we apologize for what those people have done on 9/11.’

I like the way that Mr. Zekri disrupts the Muslim collective guilt narrative by reminding Americans that Muslims like him have never approved of what happened on 9/11. In other words, he’s an individual and Islam is not a monolith, and we should make the effort to remember that. 

And so the question comes to us: is America a monolith?

In other words, is America just another Herderite-style nationalist country, grounded in ethnic and religious identity politics?

Or is America something special—an Enlightenment grounded nation committed to individualism, universal reason, and certain inalienable human rights?

The ground zero mosque debate brings identity politics up against our Jeffersonian narrative: which will be in the pole position?

Barack Obama, sworn to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States—and devoted as he so obviously is to the values of the Enlightenment—has chosen.

Have you?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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20 Responses to The Ground Zero Mosque: Are We a Judeo-Christian Country or a Jeffersonian Country?

  1. concerned christian says:

    I guess the NYT likes to get advice from the experts. How about if Al Zekri tells us how the Islamic World fits in the twenty first century, while the majority of its population are working hard to go back to the seventh century.

    • santitafarella says:


      The Muslim Americans in this country: how are they working hard to go back to the seventh century? Presumably, if they’re living in NYC, they’re working in its contemporary economy, and many of them may be professionals. Muslim Americans might be the vanguard of a general moderation of the religion. Why discourage that?

      I’ve started reading Abdul Rauf’s book, “What’s Right with Islam,” and I must say that it is a very thoughtfully written book. I don’t like religion generally, but, unless he’s completely distorting the true nature of his faith, it seems to me that Islam (at least the Islam of Abdul Rauf) is compatible with the American Enlightenment. In other words, you can be a Muslim and not seek to undermine the Jeffersonian roots of your home country. I wish I could say the same thing about Sarah Palin’s Herderite Christianity.


      • concerned christian says:

        My objection is to NYT seeking the opinion of an expert living in Bahrain to lecture us about how much more progress the USA needs to meet his high standards. So we have an Arab anthropologist analyzing the backwardness of the Judeo-Christian America. BTW I check his blog and he will more welcome if he sticks to arranged marriages and European cultures in breakfast.
        As for Abdul Rauf and many other Muslim apologist, they usually tell you what they think you want to hear and not the truth. If you want to know what’s wrong about Islam check the web page of Father Zakaria Botros. He is a Coptic Priest hiding in America and Muslims put a $60 million dollar reward for any one who kill him.

      • That’s interesting although very typical. Concerned objects

        to NYT seeking the opinion of an expert living in Bahrain to lecture us about how much more progress the USA needs to meet his high standards
        But in an earlier comment he had no problem whatsoever to give us his (a US of A citizen living in the US of A) own “expert” opinion on what the US of A should have been done with Irak

        more effort in forming a benign dictatorship

        How kind.
        Of course, as he is an US of A “expert”, we maybe should forgive him for not knowing that there isn’t such thing as a “benign dictatorship”.

  2. Warren says:


    Mayor “Napoleon” Bloomberg and his backstabbing cronies (including Obama and Pelosi) must have a $tupendou$ rea$on for wanting a sharia-hugging mosque near Ground Zero – a mosque threatening the collapse of the Islamophile Democrats come November!
    God-haters and America-haters may not realize how high the collective temperature has now risen in the hearts of true American patriots – many of whom are now willing to die for America right here in America if they get pushed completely over the line by traitors!
    Since the nation’s headquarters for treason is the White House, readers can enjoy related material if they Google “Obama Avoids Bible Verses” and “Obama Supports Public Depravity.” (This police-protected kinkiness, observable by children, occurs in “Madam” Nancy Pelosi’s brothel district; Google “Zombietime” and see “Up Your Alley Fair”!)
    Also Google “Sandra Bernhard, Larry David, Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman” in addition to Googling “Obama…destined to become a black-slavery avenger.”
    And by all means visit Googleland and type in “Government-Approved Illegals” and “Un-Americans Fight Franklin Graham.”
    I hope Mayor Bloomberg, dressed as Napoleon, will thoroughly enjoy his mosquerade party!
    PS – Since Jane Fonda still loves leftist causes, here’s a one-liner I penned during the Vietnam War era that the big Kansas City paper ran: “I’m not Fonda Jane; her Laosy remarks Hanoi me!”

    By a Kansas Patriot
    (who won FIRST PLACE over 2200 entrants in a nationwide Americanism Essay Contest !)

    (Noticed above item on the net)

    • santitafarella says:


      I must say that your Jane Fonda limerick is actually amusing.


    • Longtooth says:

      I admit to some ambivalence over the issue of the “ground zero” mosque. I have thought that Imam Feisal is perhaps being a bit aggressive with the proposed choice of location, although unquestionably constitutional. Then my thinking comes up against the venomous flatulence being slung over the matter by the right wingers, social conservatives, Christian radicals, Glen Hicks and gofer Joe the Plumber types or whatever the rhetorically proper term is these days for pseudo-patriots. And then all of sudden I think maybe not so aggressive. Do any of these gasbags give a jot for the Muslim Americans who were among the victims of 9-11?
      Maybe just some friendly fire eh?

      • santitafarella says:


        I’ll admit to a tad of ambivalence as well. I’m not a religious person, and don’t like religion much, but I simply cannot abide the anti-Jeffersonianism.


  3. I was listening to discussion on Fox radio (I’m not a screaming right winger, but I do listen for the right’s perspective).

    I was amazed that they mostly demanding to know the source of the funding of the project. They kind of grudgingly admitted it was legal.

    If a group of fundamentalist Christians was building a center in a spot that upset some of the neighbors, and liberal groups demanded to know if the money was coming from an unsavory source, fox would defend the Christian’s privacy to the death.

    Apparently because of collective guilt, Muslims at least forfeit the right to privacy that right wingers would insist on for themselves.

    I must say you tolerate diversity in your comments.

    • santitafarella says:


      It’s the McCarthyite playbook, isn’t it? Are you being funded by foreign enemies—by communists? It’s the kind of talking point one uses to distract from the fact that the Bill of Rights is being shredded.


    • santitafarella says:


      As to comments, unless the person is overtly hateful, antisemitic, racist, or sexist—and few are—I want to hear what they have to say; I want people who see the world different from me to wander into this little “internet bar”: it makes me think.


  4. concerned christian says:
    While Liberals are whitewashing radical Islam, here’s the news north of the border. Please listen carefully to warning from an intelligent Muslim about the threat of radical Islam.

    • santitafarella says:


      It’s been a busy week for me, but I’ll catch up with your links shortly. Thanks for them.


  5. concerned christian says:

    Since the Roman Senate was one of our role models in developing our Republic, have you ever heard about the Roman Dictator. Here’s a definition

    “Roman dictator was a political office of the Roman Republic. Roman dictators were allocated absolute power during times of emergency. Their power was originally neither arbitrary nor unaccountable, being subject to law and requiring retrospective justification. There were no such dictatorships after the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, and later dictators such as Sulla and the Roman Emperors exercised power much more personally and arbitrarily.”

    So some really bright people thought that there maybe a time when a dictator is needed. Don’t you think that Iraq after Saddam Hussein was going through such a period?

    • You are missing the whole fucking point.
      The point is that it’s not up to you or anybody else than the irakis themselves to say what it is or it is not suitable to them. It’s not up to you to say what Irak after Saddam would/should or wouldn’t/shouldn’t be. Period.
      As for your brilliant concept of a “benign dictatorship”, if to go back to ancient Rome and to use an argument from authority it’s all that you have, well… enough said then. Rest my case.

      • concerned christian says:

        It so happened by coincidence that today on NPR Morning Edition they talked to an Iraqi’s shop keeper who said the following
        “Haji says he wishes the Americans hadn’t dismantled Iraq’s army just because it was loyal to Saddam.

        “I do believe it’s the Americans’ mistake, what happened right now,” he says, “because they did not preserve or keep the infrastructure of their invaded country.”

        Nowadays, Haji says what a lot of Iraqis say: Maybe this democracy thing isn’t what we need. Maybe we need a strong man to put us back together and keep us together — just not another Saddam.

        “We want a strong, but a just ruler,” he says.

        So probably I do know something more about the Iraqi’s. I too rest my case.

      • Yeah sure. Irakis should be very gratefull that you turn their country in such a mess that they feel nostalgia for the good old times.
        Mission acomplished.

      • santitafarella says:


        You made a brilliant retort. Bravo!


  6. santitafarella says:


    Your point about the military, however, is not a bad one: all the military experts of the invasion—like Ricks et. al.—said that “de-Nazification” was a bad idea. In other words, treating Saddam Hussein’s army like the allies treated Hitler’s army meant that all the competent and patriotic Iraqis who had military experience were now chucked onto the street, unemployed, and now open to being flipped into opposition against the Americans. Bush, of course, in his Manichean worldview, couldn’t hear such pragmatic advice.

    And there’s a lesson here: equating Saddam’s military with the Nazis meant that you arrived at a bad foreign policy. Likewise, might treating Muslim Americans with suspicion and as “enemies of the West” lead to bad domestic policy as well: alienating them and making them flippable?


    • concerned christian says:

      Let me start with Iraq, Iraq never had a democratically elected government. I will not bore you with the details but most recently and until WWI it was part of the Ottoman Empire. After the war the British carved out the new Iraq, they gifted it to King Faisal, the one in Lawrence of Arabia, as a reward for his loyalty. His family ruled Iraq until a military coup in 1958. After that there was few dictators ending with Saddam. In fact America was the first country who tried to promote democracy in Iraq, and obviously so far we did not accomplish much.

      As for Muslims, I am in total agreement with what Tarek Fatah said in this link. I posted it earlier in this thread, but here it is again. My point is we should be able to differentiate between the average Muslims and those who joined the radical camp. The teaching of Sayid Qutb and his followers, the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, the Muslim brotherhood of Egypt are not much different from the fascists of pre WWII Italy and it will be very important to distinguish between the two groups and also it helps to know not only what some people say in English to the West but also what they say in Arabic to the Islamic world.

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